Guest Post: North Dakota’s Legislature Disregards the People

The state capitol building in Bismarck, North Dakota

This guest post was submitted by Riley Kuntz of Dickinson, chairman of Audit the Swamp, a referendum committee set up to refer three laws passed by the Legislature to the statewide ballot

The recently released Attorney General Opinion determining the enactment of SB 2004 to be ‘likely to be unconstitutional’ was spot on. Granted, Audit the Swamp reached this conclusion over a month ago, hence the Referendum measure. Questionable legality notwithstanding, the Legislature’s and Governor’s enactment of the law is morally reprehensible. With this in mind, Audit the Swamp will continue the Referendum Measures.

I would like to ensure that the People of this State do not find the Opinion all-inclusive. There are substantial political interests vested within the government to ensure the failure of these measures. The Opinion might be a diversionary tactic and I want to remind everyone that we are undertaking the task of referring three equally egregious enactments, which taken as a whole signify a total disregard for We the People.

Audit the Swamp is circulating petitions to ensure this pernicious and insidious behavior be curtailed. We expect transparency and accountability of our money and our rights.

SB 2001 takes $50 million dollars to provide for the maintenance of a tourist attraction. The last session failed to expend public money, specifically earmarked for schools and education, for the education of our children and the diminishment of substantial property tax burden faced by all North Dakotans alike. While the government shows little regard for the People, it does show kind regard to the few billionaires who contribute to the right officials.

SB 2004 requires the State Auditor to obtain permission from a select committee of the Legislature prior to conducting an audit. This bill is not the first attack on the Auditor’s office. The legislative session of 2017 cut the budget of the Auditor. This session now requires permission prior to conducting an audit. This continued lack of appreciation for the assurance that public money is being spent in accordance with law is troubling indeed. Why wouldn’t the government want to ensure fiscal responsibility of state agencies, thereby lowering the amount of money spent per biennium?

A history of this proviso is important. The Senate ‘hid’ this policy change in an appropriation bill. The House found the dubious proviso, and despite lengthy debate, passed the bill without amendments. The People were now aware of the shenanigans and expected the Governor to utilize the line item veto powers inherent in the office. The Governor, who was first publicly embarrassed by the Auditor with an audit that found a misappropriation, to the tune of $700,000, for misuse of public transportation, did not line item the proviso. After the Senate changed position and took ownership of the proviso, are we seriously expectant that the government is suddenly going to start doing the right thing?

SB 2221 is but another exemption to the Constitutionally secured right of Open Records. How many of us would remain silent when an additional exemption was enacted to diminish the right to keep and bear arms? Open records are the best way for the People to investigate the government. Now, we have less ability to see what information is being shared on the server that We the People pay for. How many of you are allowed by your employer to utilize their computers and network for personal purposes? State employees are no different. This exemption is entirely unnecessary, and if anything, a law should have been passed that specifically forbid public employees from utilizing state assets for personal use.

In sum, the government continually disregards We the People by egregiously spending money on impertinent issues and destroying every means by which we can curb government fraud, waste and abuse. Audit the Swamp formed in spite of these chilling actions. Audit the Swamp is circulating petitions to ensure this pernicious and insidious behavior be curtailed. We expect transparency and accountability of our money and our rights.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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